Jennifer Botterill, one of Canada's greatest women players, retired from international hockey on Monday in her hometown of Winnipeg.
Botterill, who has won three Olympic gold medals with Canada's national team, made the announcement with grace and class at the MTS Centre's Exchange Restaurant. She thanked everyone in the game who "shared in her journey" and promised hockey has not seen the last of her.
"This just feels right, it's what's in my heart," said Botterill, 31, said at a conference held to make the announcement. "I look forward to giving back to the community, to the city, to charity, to Canada and to the growth of hockey. I'm excited to stay involved with the game...Every day I feel so fortunate that this is the life I get to live.
"Thank you to Hockey Canada, to Hockey Manitoba, to the city to our country, to the great game of hockey, it has been an honour."
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson and media director Andre Brin flew in from Calgary to pay tribute to Botterill.
Cal and Doreen, Botterill's parents, and her grandmother Florence McCannell were present and Botterill's brother Jason, now the Pittsburgh Penguins' director of hockey administration, was arriving Monday night, as the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins are playing the Manitoba Moose today and Wednesday at the MTS Centre.
"One of my favourite moments was chatting with my parents and they told me they remembered when I first started playing the game... they said they knew this was something special because every time I was on the ice, they could always see my smile through my cage," Botterill said. "I thought of this often when I was playing and preparing to compete. It reminded me of the joy of the game and I believe that I brought that same smile with me throughout my journey."
She spoke of happy memories from playing hockey in the basement of the family home with her brother, on the outdoor rink at Wildewood Community Club, her first female hockey team, the Waverley Storm, St. John's-Ravenscourt School, centralizing with the national team in Calgary, Harvard University, her current team -- Toronto of the Canadian Women's Hockey League -- and many Team Canada international competitions.
"It was always about that same feeling of enjoying the moment. Thank you to each and every one of my teammates," Botterill said.
Botterill's contribution to Team Canada's success is worth its weight in gold. She earned gold medals at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games. She won 16 total gold medals with Team Canada during her 14-year career. She won five at the IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship and seven at the 3 Nations/Four Nations Cup and the 2005 Torino Ice Tournament.
She is one of just four Canadian players to participate in all four Olympic women's hockey tournaments. Botterill played 184 games for Team Canada, third all-time behind Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford. She is fifth on the all-time scoring list with 65 goals and 109 assists for 174 points.
Her last appearance with Team Canada was on Feb. 25, 2010 at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver when she set up Marie-Philip Poulin for the gold medal-winning goal.
"I wanted to make sure it (retiring) felt right and it does. My year has gone great with Toronto and I honestly don't know if I've ever felt better on the ice. That's the feeling I want to keep," she said.
Botterill and her Toronto team will be competing in the 2011 Clarkson Cup national championship against Brampton, Montreal and Minnesota March 24-27 in Barrie, Ont.